Stanford University's Aerospace Robotics Laboratory has a state of the art research program in free-flying space robotics. ARL has experimentally developed enabling technologies such as object acquisition and manipulation, adaptive identification of unknown payloads, and docking of massive objects by one or more free-flying robots in a free-floating, zero-drag environment. Additional research has focused on extending the capabilities of the free-flying space robots to execute extended assemblies and to operate in more unstructured environments. The robots also serve as a testbed for spacecraft formation flight sensing, planning and control research.

ARL's space robotics facility features three autonomous self-contained free-flying space robots. A space environment is simulated in two dimensions using an air bearing over a large, very flat granite table. The robots are equipped with cold-gas thrusters with which they may move about in their zero-drag environment. Other characteristics include two direct-current motor-driven manipulators with pneumatic grippers, on-board vision, wireless ethernet communications, on-board computing, power and gas reserves, and momentum wheels on two of the three robots. Robot position and attitude are tracked either by an overhead vision system or by our indoor pseudolite-based GPS system.

Research at ARL has focused both on developing the capabilities of individual robots to perform complex, extended tasks, and on multiple robot systems to perform tasks that are far too cumbersome, or even impossible, for a single robot to perform alone. Sensing, control, operator interface, path planning, cooperative behavior, and task level control research has been and continues to be performed using this testbed.

Last modified Mon, 1 Nov, 2010 at 13:25